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Nigerian Army Hands Over 131 Rescued Kuriga School Children to Kaduna State Government

Kaduna Governor Uba Sani, while commending security agencies for rescuing abducted schoolchildren, has warned against the politicising of security issues.

The Nigerian Army has handed over 131 of the 137 rescued Kuriga schoolchildren to the Kaduna State governor, Senator Uba Sani.

General Officer Commanding (GOC) I Division of the Nigerian Army and Force Commander, Operation WHIRL PUNCH, Major. Gen. Mayirenso Saraso, handed over the children to Sani at Government House, Kaduna.

Saraso said all the 137 children were rescued unhurt, and six of them were currently receiving medication at the army health facility in Kaduna.

He said the only teacher, Abubakar, who was abducted alongside the children, died while in captivity.

The GOC said the children were rescued in Dansadau forest in Zamfara State through sustained and coordinated application of both kinetic and non-kinetic efforts by the security agencies under the strategic guidance of President Bola Tinubu.

He stated, “Recall that on Thursday, 7th March 2024, some violent extremists and insurgents (VE/I) infamously called armed bandits invaded the LEA Primary School and the Government Secondary School both co-located at Kuriga, in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, where they criminally abducted several pupils and students, including a staff member of one of the two schools.

“Through the sustained and coordinated application of both kinetic and non-kinetic efforts by the security agencies under the strategic guidance of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, through the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the abducted Kuriga school children have in the early hours of on Monday, Sunday 24th March 2024, been safely rescued after spending about 16 days in captivity.

“The students were initially received and administered first aid at the Nigerian Army Troops Forward Operating Base, Dandadau, in Zamfara State, before being served refreshment and, subsequently, conveyed from there under escort to Kaduna this morning/afternoon.

“In all, there were 137 children and one staff member making 138 persons altogether that were abducted from the co-located schools on the ill-fated day. But, unfortunately, the staff member, Mr Abubakar, is not here with us today because he died while in captivity.

“Consequently, there are here at present a total of 137 students of the Govt Secondary and LEA Primary Schools Kuriga in Chikun LGA of Kaduna State, who were successfully rescued from captivity around Dansadau forest in Zamfara State and safely brought back to Kaduna.

“The breakdown of the figure of the rescued children shows that there are 76 females and 61 males, making the total of 137 altogether (less the teacher that died while in captivity).”

The GOC thanked Tinubu for his support and strategic guidance, through the Ministers of Defence, NSA, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), service chiefs, heads of other security and law enforcement agencies, the Kaduna State government, and the GOC, 8 Division of the Nigerian Army, who severally contributed to the successful rescue efforts and the safe return of the school children, “without payment of ransom.”

In his remarks, Sani expressed happiness over the safe return of the children and thanked the security agencies for their effort.

The governor also warned the media, insecurity and conflicts merchants to be cautious of issues concerning security.

He said, “We have to be cautious, we should not politicise the issue of insecurity in Nigeria. Any attempt to continue to undermine the efforts of security agencies in Nigeria in the name of politics is jeopardising the lives and property of our innocent citizens in Nigeria.”

He added, “I want to caution particularly the media and some elements within the society. Since the return of these children, they have been coming with some permutations about what happened and how this children were released.

“In my own opinion maybe most of these people are not happy that these children are back, because if they are happy, they should celebrate it. That is the most important thing, just like the families of these children are celebrating their returns.”

The governor said his government was happy over the release of the children.

He stated, “We had 16 days of sleepless nights but today we are happy that the children are back and I want to emphasise again that in Kaduna, we will continue to work with relevant security agencies to ensure that all our communities are safe at the grassroots.”

Sani called on communities to tackle the issue of informants in their midst.

The schoolchildren arrived at the Government House about 2pm in buses belonging to the 1 Division of the Nigerian Army amid tight security. They were dressed in new clothes and shoes and were in high spirits. But journalists were prevented from interviewing them.

Their parents were conspicuously absent at the event. It was learnt that the absence of the parents was to prevent them from interacting with the media.

The state government was expected to host the children to dinner on Monday evening.

Meanwhile Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said the rescue of the 137 abducted schoolchildren signalled a new dawn in anti-terrorism measures being adopted by the government.

In a statement in Kaduna, the forum expressed joy over the safe return of the children.

The statement signed by the spokesperson of the forum, Professor Tanimu Muhammad-Baba, said the rescue of the children was highly commendable. It said the operation was made possible by collaboration between various security stakeholders and locals.

ACF stated, “This is as should be, as many have, indeed, been stridently calling for such an approach to stamping out for good, the menace of terrorism and banditry that has (posed) existential threats to communities in Nigeria.

“ACF also rejoices with the students, their parents and guardians.

“Going forward, ACF calls for strengthening this new anti-terrorism multi-stakeholder, multi-pronged strategy, involving all those with direct and indirect responsibilities for securing peoples and communities and, ultimately, Nigeria.”

The forum also called for intensified efforts towards the release of other captives, everywhere.

The statement added, “For Kuriga, this is vital, because the number of victims released is at variance with earlier figures of abductees as, indeed, reflected in various news reports.

“The adoption of simple but effective community-based measures, including simple or user-friendly gadgets, incorporating solid intelligence gathering and processing, for early warning, early response strategy to secure all vulnerable communities and facilities;

“Psychological counselling for the released victims so that mental effect of the trauma is minimised and they return to normalcy soonest.

“ACF reiterates its earlier call on the parents and students to remain defiant and not to be discouraged. The terror merchants must not be allowed any semblance of victory, pyrrhic as it will be; and the immediate rehabilitation of schools to make the learning environment conducive.”

Deji Elumoye and John Shiklam

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